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No one knows for sure what Paul meant when he spoke of the thorn in his flesh when he writes in the New Testament of the Holy Bible:
And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.

2 Corinthians 12:7(NRSV)

Saint Paul's thorn in the flesh 1 has also been identified with epilepsy by some biblical scholars. It's unlikely that this would have been idiopathic epilepsy in view of the late onset in his life, but its clear temporal relationship to an out of the body experience 2, possibly induced by the severe trauma of one of his many beatings or stonings, 3 would suggest that post traumatic epilepsy cannot be ruled out.

Other researchers remark that it may have been carnal temptations while another rebuts that was truly not the case and suggests it was a chronic humiliating malady with acute attacks, such as marsh fever.

A biblical dictionary interprets the thorn not as an illness at all, but to mean persecution by former colleagues. Yet another comments that the passage from the Holy Bible might refer to a psychic or physical ailment which, by Jewish tradition, would be caused by Satan or a demon. Only to further try to explain the thorn in Pauls' flesh as really suggesting an external personal source of affliction; that in the Old Testament thorns meant enemies and that the thorn is the hostility he was certainly facing during his ministries coming from within his own communities, specifically Corinth.

Paul prayed three times for the removal of his thorn. His first two petitions went unanswered. At his third entreaty, however, the Lord protests: ‘sufficient for you is My grace, for My power in infirmity is being perfected.4 The sharp affliction which he had to bear, over and above the normal burden of life was placed upon him to aid in his ministries to come. Paul was flogged and stoned and was ill, but never claimed that these experiences were due to spiritual agencies. Only the truth, that he suffered physically at the hands of unbelieving men, and from the destructive conditions under which the human body exists.

Many phrases have become so common in English speech, and are hardly thought of as Biblical at all. By today's standards thorn in the flesh has become an idiom which means a constant nuisance.


McKenzie,John. Dictionary of the Bible
O’Connor, Jerome Murphy . New Jerome Biblical Commentary
O’Curraoin, Tomas. New Commentary on Holy Scripture
The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993.

Start Again


Again it is the thorn in your side. It reminds you of where you are and why you are there. Without the thorns there is no reason for being there.

It often takes me a while to find the questions that go with the answers I am given, those that come through the dreams and visions that are part of my strange faith.

It is within these words, spoken to me by my angel in dreams, that I am able to understand the nature of that question so many yell and scream about, that question regarding matters of "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

My faith teaches me that this place in which we live is something akin to purgatory, or in other interpretations it is samsara. At the most basic level this means we are spending time in a place where we must face difficulty. We must struggle, but we must learn to rise above certain things we may be inclined to do in order to survive. Those things we need to rise above involve taking paths that have a negative impact on others but at the same time are benefit to us as individuals.

If we succeed and are able to thrive and do well here in purgatory, we must be given new challenges, and we must be allowed to suffer in order to remind us of where we are and why we are here. If we do all we can to avoid suffering by insulating ourselves against it, and in doing so disconnect ourselves from the suffering of others, it is then that we have bowed to the greatest weapon of temptation. We ride smiling, holding onto the devil's tail, unable to understand the nature of suffering while believing we can preach from self-righteousness.

Those words of Paul from 2 Corinthians 12:7 make perfect sense to me. One who is given a deep and powerful connection to another "world" that exists above this one would need constant reminders of where he is and why he is there. "And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated." We all need those reminders, some more than others, to remind us it is not here that we will attain peace, harmony, tranquility and completeness.

Faith needs to be tested regularly, for it is what exists in the absence of proof, and the reminder of that absence of proof is "a messenger of Satan," a jab in our midsection. The jab tells us belief in what cannot be seen or proven is foolish. It tell us to abandon our faith and embrace the idea of trying to attain happiness here through acquisition of what the material world offers towards that end. And once that road is taken, the cycle of purgatory is complete. In abandoning faith what you see is what you get and purgatory is all you have. The resulting thirst drives the engines of purgatory, and without faith we become part of the vehicle of our own suffering. We'll fight for our pathetic patch of land. We'll go to war to preserve the walls around it. And we will kill to make sure we never lose it.

And through this we fail to realize that we have nothing. We have nothing at all. What you truly have faith in never requires you to defend it. What you believe is the truth within. It doesn't require anyone else accept it and it doesn't care what anyone else has to say about it.

As the spirit begins to soar, the body must be brought down to earth, and thus the thorn in your side must come again and again to remind you of where you are and why.


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